6 bad habits: How to get rid of them in your dressage work

3 min.

It is always a good idea to look inward and admit all the bad habits you have collected over time in your dressage work. Recent studies show that it can take up to 2.5 months to break free from a bad habit. So the sooner you start the sooner you can achieve your end goal.  We have collected a list of some of the things that might have crepted in to the everyday training.

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Perhaps you are in the category of riders who look down instead of straight forward while riding. Perhaps you look down to keep an eye on the position of your hands. Maybe you do it to make sure the horse places its head correctly. No matter the reason you should try to get rid of this bad habit. It is not comfortable for your neck and it makes your bag less flexible and your balance is off.  

A great tip is to constantly have a focus point you ride after. Practise to feel your horse, and how it is responding instead of looking down at it. 


You probably know it a little too well. While your horse is walking in the arena warming up you might check out Instagram, answer a few messages or talk on the phone. But it is a bad idea not to focus entirely on your horse. We know it can be a good solution to bring your phone to the stable for safety reasons. But set on flight mode or silent mode when you are in the presence of your horse. 


“Seat up straight!” Perhaps your trainer has mentioned this to you several times. You are not alone. Having a forward bent line-up is one of the most common bad habits among riders. Even so, you still have to work on it. Leaning forward increases the weight on the horse’s front – which is not very preferable. At the same time, you make it harder for both you and your horse to stay in balance. Another tip: Think straight up every time you reach one of the letters in the arena. Slowly, this becomes your new great habit.  

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More than likely you are probably focusing on having smooth and light hands. But are you also remembering to have soft elbows? Unfortunately, many of us forget this. It does not make much sense to have soft hands if instead you lock your elbows. This can both appear if you stretch out or when you lift your hands too high. Try to imagine your elbows as rubber bands that needs to follow every movement of the horse. 

You may also like to read: Loading horses: Just as hard as a dressage lesson


Do you have a tendency to hold your breath or not breathe all the way down in your stomach? It is very unpleasant, and it will make you pretty tense and affect your horse.  

A good place to start is to find out why you are not breathing. Is it because you are nervous or is it when you concentrate a lot? If it is because you are insecure then take a step back and built up your confidence. No matter what, it can help to work with a rhythm in your breathing, perhaps in connection with your horse’s steps. It might also help to hum a song just to remember breathing – do not worry. Your horse will not judge you.  


The expression “piano hands” might not be that unfamiliar if you have a tendency to keep your hands in a horizontal position. This way, as the name indicates, it looks more like you are playing the piano than riding a horse. Even if it feels difficult to break this habit, it is so worth the trouble. When your hands are placed in a vertical position your ring fingers are much more sensitive. So, forget the piano and imagine you are holding a tiny chicken in each hand and be careful not to squeeze it too hard.  

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